There are several books with the title Nüxun 女訓 "Instructions for girls", all written as treatises on female conduct with the intention to be used for the education of girls.
There was a Nüxun by the Han-period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) scholar Cai Yong 蔡邕 (132-192), one by Miss Li 李氏, wife of the Western Jin-period 西晉 (265-316) official Jia Chong 賈充 (217-282), and an anonymous Nüxun from the Liang period 梁 (502-557). During the Tang period 唐 (618-907), Miss Wei 韋氏, wife of Wang Lin 王琳, wrote a book with this title, as well as two Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) persons, the one being Empress Xu 徐后 (imperial title Empress Renxiao 仁孝皇后), wife of Emperor Chengzu 明成祖 (r. 1403-1424, her book is also known with the title Neixun 內訓 "Instructions for the interior"), and the other Empress Dowager Jiang 蔣太后, wife of the Emperor Shizong 明世宗 (r. 1522-1566). During the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) two further books of this title were produced, namely the Nüxun by the daughter of Li Zongbai 李宗白, and another written by Miss Li 李氏 (1666-1743), the wife of Yin Gongbi 尹公弼. Most of these books were never printed and are therefore lost.
The short book by Empress Dowager Jiang has survived. It is 12 chapters-long and was promulgated in 1530 to be used by the public. It was planned to serve for the education of the princes, but after the Empress's passing away the Emperor had the book allowed to be used by the public. This was mainly done as an expression of his filial piety towards his mother, Empress Gao 高皇后, and his late wife. The Neixun should serve as a contemporary analogon to the Han-period book Lienüzhuan 列女傳.
The Neixun is divided into 20 chapters. While the Lienüzhuan only consists of biographies of outstanding women, the Neixun is more theoretical, except a few examples of outstanding women from the early decades of the Ming period. The reason why a woman can become a "saint" is because she can be able to nourish her virtue. This happens by speaking with care and acting with prudence. She works with diligent urge, manages the household with thrifting sparingness, and she constantly admonishes herself and her children. She holds highly the instructions of her mother-in-law, venerates the rules of the former outstanding women, serves her own parents and her uncles and aunts. She cares for the up-keeping of the household offerings. She knows her maternal obligations, her friendship towards the neighbourhood, her benevolence towards the younger and how to observe the household servants. If praised for her qualities she will not be arrogant, and if not criticized for faults, she is nonetheless never satisfied with herself.
|Instructions for the boudoir
|Husband and wife
|Filial piety towards uncle and aunt
|Respecting the husband
|Affection towards the wife
|Benevolence towards the children
|Giving birth to a child
|Seriousness and quietness
|Sparingness and simplicity